It’s been a while since we needed a new graphics card power connector. Both AMD and Nvidia have typically made do with pairs of 6-pin and 8-pin connectors in various configurations. This year, Nvidia is introducing a change, with a new 12-pin connector for Ampere.
First, good news: You aren’t going to have to rush out and buy new connectors. According to Nvidia, the 12-pin will be compatible with 8-pin connectors. This is pretty common. Two Molex connectors could be connected to create a single 6-pin PCIe back in the day, and two 6-pin cables can be combined in a converter to create a single 8-pin. We’ll probably see something similar here.
(Amusingly, this suggests that an ancient high-wattage power supply with eight Molex 4-pin connectors might be capable of driving a 12-pin PCIe card. If anyone has an appropriate power supply and enjoys risking brand-new graphics cards, I’d be curious to know if it worked.)
According to Nvidia, the new connector is substantially smaller than the original, and that seems to be true based on the diagrams below:
Here’s a standard pair of 8-pin connectors. Typically at least the highest-end GPUs in the stack have a pair of 8s; lower-end cards will typically pair an 8-pin with a 6-pin.
Nvidia claims it shrank the total space required substantially with the new 12-pin connector, while delivering more power than the older 8-pin standard. Moving the connector to this new position also allows for more effective cooling of the card.
Nvidia shows how it designs the cooling solutions for its GPUs in the above video. There’s some implication here that Ampere may be a high-power design. “When we come up with a new architecture we have lofty dreams for performance,” says Andrew Bell, VP of Nvidia’s product design team. “But one of the things we would like to do is to generate more performance by getting more power into the GPU.”
Nvidia has optimized Ampere’s PCB and rearchitected the cooling solution to improve overall performance. This is standard procedure for new GPU generations — both AMD and Nvidia always like to show off their improved cooler designs — but both companies have also needed to make genuine improvements as GPU TDPs have climbed. The RTX 3000 series is rumored to be a fairly beefy family, so we’re curious to see the GPUs and how they perform on the testbed. AMD’s own RDNA2 family will add ray tracing this year, so we’ll see if that leaves Team Red with more of a heat problem to contend with, or whether the company found enough improvements in its second-generation 7nm GPU to offset issues.
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